Spotty Chocolate Cake with Smarties

There have been lots of very grown-up things happening at work lately. People keep getting engaged and/or married, having babies, leaving to go and work for a big scary law firm. That kind of thing. So, in order to mark these life-changing events in appropriate style, I cooked up the most ludicrously childish cake (aesthetically).

Having decided roughly how I wanted the cake to look, I chose to do the chocolate and raspberry cake I did for Cat’s 30th birthday, particularly because it gave a really dark colour and a delicious, sophisticated flavour. There are LOTS of people in the office these days, so I went for a whopping 10” version with three layers.  This was a beast of a cake.  Pretty vulgar, actually.

First things first, though: some hidden sponge balls in Smarties colours.

I made up a two egg Victoria sponge mix. (For those of you who haven’t a clue what I mean: 1. Weigh two eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same quantity of unsalted butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour; 2. Beat sugar and butter until pale; 3. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each; 4. Add flour and beat just until combined.) Next, I weighed the mixture into five bowls and coloured each to be as close to the colour of a Smartie as possible. (Can one singularise “Smarties”?  Is “singularise” a word?  “Pluralise” is…  I digress.)

Smarties colour-matching.  Like Dulux, but tastier.

Smarties colour-matching. Like Dulux, but tastier.

I scooped the mixture untidily into a cake pop thingy, which I had never used before.  (As a side-note, those of you who know me will chuckle gleefully as you think about how much my error in loading the thingy irks me.  I’m trying not to dwell on it.)

OCD nightmare

OCD nightmare

Also, next time, I will know to push it together firmly in the middle so that all of them are completely round.  I had some funky shapes going on.

Should've pushed it together properly

Should’ve pushed it together properly

Next, I mixed a GIANT batch of chocolate cake mix and poured a bit in the bottom of each tin, laid the sponge balls on top, then covered them with more cake mix, ensuring that no colour peeped through.

Spots

Spots

 

Incognito spots

Incognito spots

 

At this point – approximately 10.30pm – I realised that my oven wouldn’t accommodate all three 10” tins in one go. FACEPALM.  I baked in shifts, covered the baked sponges with a clean tea-towel overnight while they cooled, then wrapped them in cling film the next morning so that they kept well until I could pile them up that evening.  I didn’t take pictures because they just looked like plain chocolate sponges – not exciting.  Whilst waiting for the batches to bake, I sat and sorted an absurd number of Smarties into colours to make the decorative bit quicker.

 

The next evening, I made up a ½ batch of raspberry sauce and a 1½ batch of chocolate ganache from the other recipe, refrigerating the latter for a good while until it was thick enough to spread.

I located the middle of the cake and started poking Smarties vertically into the ganache.  NB: If you’re planning to do similar, make sure you put the Smarties on at the last possible moment, as they will quickly fade and lose their crispness because of the moisture in the ganache.  My careful Dulux-worth colour matching turned out to be almost entirely pointless.  Mrgh.

Ready, steady, go

Ready, steady, go

 

Easy does it

Easy does it

 

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

 

Ta-da!  (Again.)

Ta-da! (Again.)  (Imagine the Smarties aren’t faded.)

 

Pleasing.

Pleasing.

 

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Cat’s Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

My beautiful, vivacious, generous, intelligent, loyal and all-round awesome friend Cat turns 30 today.  She is the most marvellous maker of mischief, queen of comedy and has the capacity to create magic out of absolutely nothing.  There was never a more worthy recipient of a genuinely extravagant birthday cake… I found this recipe for a chocolate and raspberry cake online, so I converted it into UK measurements for a two-tier cake:

Ingredient 8” cake (+ 4 cupcakes) 6” cake (+ 3 cupcakes)
Dark chocolate (53% cocoa solids) 85g 55g
Hot brewed coffee 350ml 230ml
Caster sugar 600g 400g
Plain flour 312g 205g
Cocoa powder (unsweetened) 125g 85g
Baking powder ¾ tsp ½ tsp
Bicarbonate of soda 2 tsp 1½ tsp
Salt ½ tsp ¼ tsp
Large eggs 3 2
Sunflower oil 175ml 115ml
Buttermilk 355ml 235ml
Vanilla extract ¾ tsp ½ tsp

Preheat to 150C.  Butter and base-line your tins.  (I often take the bone-idle route and settle for just base-lining, but you really should butter these tins, even if they’re non-stick.) Measure out and sieve all the dry ingredients into one bowl.  Finely chop the chocolate, then pour the hot coffee over, let it sit, then stir to make sure the chocolate is evenly melted. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs for about 3 minutes until slightly thickened.  While the beater is running on slow speed, add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until combined, then add the oil in the same way.

Looks a bit like custard

Looks a bit like custard

Pour in the chocolate/coffee mix…

Slightly darker custard

Slightly darker custard

Finally, sift in the dry ingredients and mix (carefully, so as not to let too much fly out of the bowl) until properly combined.  You will have a VERY liquidy cake mixture, which will make you question whether it could possibly create a cake.  Have faith, my friends.

Drip.  Drip.  Drip.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

The original recipe is for three 9″ pans but my trio measure 8″ so I made some Brucie Bonus cupcakes with the extra batter (very useful for Quality Control purposes).

Three 8" cakes + Brucie Bonus cupcakes

Three 8″ cakes + Brucie Bonus cupcakes

Bake on the middle shelf for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.  Interestingly, the 6″ cakes took the same time to bake.

Pile 'em up (and fire the lighting designer)

Pile ’em up (and fire the lighting designer)

Next comes the raspberry goodness, for which you need:
300g fresh raspberries
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
(I made twice this, and now have an absurd quantity in my freezer.)

Blitz your raspberries then sieve the seeds out.  As for how to clean the sieve afterwards, I have no tips.  I yelled at mine, but it didn’t help. Pour the blitzed berries in a saucepan and sprinkle the sugar and cornflour over.  Heat gently until it thickens, stirring all the time.  It’ll take a good 10 minutes, I reckon.  I reduced the sugar from the original recipe so this tastes relatively sharp (depending on your raspberries) but the rich, chocolatey cake can absolutely take it.

Look at that colour

Look at that colour

Pour into a bowl and let it cool completely before sandwiching the cakes together with it.  Be a bit more generous than I was; I could barely taste the raspberry (this may or may not have been influenced by the quantity of red wine I had already consumed).

Raspberry tanginess

Raspberry tanginess

Serious cake

Serious cake

Ganache time.  The addition of Golden Syrup adds another dimension to this, which I really enjoyed.  I did, however, remove the sugar from the original recipe.  This quantity does a nice, thin-ish layer on the two cakes.  You don’t really want it too much thicker, I don’t think.

210g dark chocolate (53% cocoa solids)
300ml double cream
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
75g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Finely chop the chocolate and throw in a heat-proof bowl.  Over a low-medium heat, slowly bring the double cream and Golden Syrup to a boil.  Pour over the chocolate and stir VERY SLOWLY in concentric circles starting in the middle.  Be patient.  For a long time, it’ll look like it won’t emulsify but it will.  Do not be tempted to speed up your stirring.  When it has emulsified, throw in the butter a few cubes at a time and continue stirring gently until it’s all in and melted.  You’ll have a beautifully glossy ganache.

The phases of ganache-making

The phases of ganache-making

I refrigerated mine (stirring every 5 minutes) until it reached spreading consistency.

Glossy

Glossy

Into the final phase… decoration.  YES.  For the 6″ cake, I cheated and bought some high quality dark chocolate pencils and stuck 75 round the side.  At 10cm, they only just fit the height of the cake..

Cheating

Cheating

Looks good though, right?

Looks good though, right?

For the bottom tier, I tried my hand at tempering chocolate without a digital thermometer.  Then I put “digital thermometer” on my list for Santa. The theory is that you take 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) and melt 130g of it in a bain-marie, keeping it over the pan until it reaches 48C.  Then take the bowl off the heat, and add the remaining 70g of chocolate, stirring gently and continuously until it cools to 32C.  If you do this successfully, the chocolate will set more quickly than usual and will be more robust (i.e. won’t melt as easily) as normal chocolate.

I did just fine with my mercury jam thermometer until the cooling down bit, when the minimum measured temperature of 40C was something of a hindrance.  So I guessed.  As luck would have it, the result was alright, but it took an age to set so was definitely not tempered properly.

The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that my kitchen is a little… petite, so this next project had to take place at my dining table, with the help of some foam-board I had left over from a crafty project…

I cut and taped an acetate cocoa butter transfer to make a 70cm long strip, 12cm wide, which I laid out cocoa-side up.  I spread the chocolate (a little too thinly) over with an angled palette knife and waiting IMPATIENTLY for the FLIPPING thing to set, wishing that it were a cooler October evening than it was.

Uncharted territory

Uncharted territory

Set, you fickle bugger.  SET.

Set, you fickle bugger. SET.

Eventually, it was sufficiently set for me to wrap it around the cake.  In light of the fact that I knew I hadn’t tempered the chocolate properly, I decided it needed a little technical assistance to set properly so put it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I carefully peeled off the acetate (not quite carefully enough, you might notice).

We didn't need that little chunk.

We didn’t need that little chunk.

A quick trip across London and some holding of breath, and the genuinely extravagant birthday cake was assembled, beribboned…

Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

… and set on fire.

Happy birthday, Cat. x

Happy birthday, Cat. x